Tuesday, February 25, 2014

But I Don't Feel Like It Anymore - Commitment vs Feelings and Why You Should Do It Anyway

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable (of becoming)."
-Coach John Wooden

My first career (1995-2001) was inside and outside sales for a technology firm in Silicon Valley during the dot.com boom/bubble years.  That's a fancy way of saying that right out of high school I got a job working for my father's business partner Paul on business development of a new territory.  The new territory?  Southern California.

From 1995-1997 I went to school full time and worked part time developing new business making cold calls from a business guide.  This is prior to major & minor companies having robust websites and prior to Google telling me how to find any information on any company, product or person that has a public presence.  I had only an encyclopedia sized book, a company name, their product line and a phone number.  It was my job to call the receptionist, and somehow talk my way through the web of that company to get to someone who purchased electronic components from other companies to make the product that they sold.  Simple enough, right?  Only problem was that the bigger the company, the more intricate the web of people who didn't know what anyone else did, not to mention the bulldog receptionists and personal assistants that were hired and trained to be a firewall against calls like mine.

Paul, my mentor/boss, has completed many endurance rides/runs.
In 1997, Paul (co-founder of the company, Signet Technical Sales, later Signet LCD and then IDS) offered me a full time position.  I accepted and stepped full tilt into the corporate world, which included 10-15 hours a week of commuting (to and from San Jose) and 40-60 hour weeks.  "Salesmen have no hours!" Paul used to say, much like Alec Baldwin's character from my favorite movie about sales, "Glengary Glen Ross."  Back then, I would spend most of my day dialing up strangers and asking for a favor, "please tell me who I need to talk to who makes the decision on purchasing these parts for your products."  I got really clear that there were going to be good days and bad days.  Days I felt inspired to do it and days I didn't want to pick up the phone to encounter 43 more rejections in 44 calls (and the 1 other call was a voicemail).

My last full year at Signet (2001), I stopped commuting.  I moved from San Francisco to San Jose, and cut my 3 hours of daily driving to 15 minutes each way.  I suddenly had 2 to 2.5 hours per day I didn't even know what to do with.  I was inspired, energized and ready to train for my first marathon, something I had put off for 5-6 years.  I committed to run my first 26.2, which was actually the second time I made that commitment (it was first a New Year's Resolution in 2000, until I didn't feel like training anymore, about maybe 19 days later).

I had signed up for the San Diego Rock'n'Roll Marathon, I also booked the round trip flight from San Jose to San Diego for early June and I hired a coach to help guide me (shout out to Coach Kaley, the first coach I ever hired).  Problem was, I was overeager.  I trained myself right into an overuse injury (ITBS) within about 2-3 weeks.  I wanted to run, but I couldn't.  So Coach Kaley (a very talented triathlete) started working with me on swimming and biking (as much as sitting on a spin bike can be considered biking).

I cross trained for a full month, until I just didn't feel like it anymore.  My knee hadn't improved, and I still had pain after mile 2 on basically every run I'd go on to test it out, about every 2 weeks.  I stopped training altogether.  That was mid-February.  Late-May came up on me fast and I realized I had a trip to San Diego (flights booked, accommodations made) and suddenly I was feeling inspired again.  So I went for a few runs to shake off the rust, determined my knee didn't hurt at mile 2 anymore and flew to San Diego.

*Note: this is NOT my bib # from 2001
Along the way I had raised maybe $500-$900 for the NCCF, but it was all in $1-$2 per mile sponsorship donation checks.  I was certainly not fit for 26.2 miles straight, on roads.  But I also felt a sense of obligation to finish what I started since I couldn't donate checks for the amounts they were written out for if they were based on the miles I had committed to doing.  I was in a quandary: do I run a marathon and put myself at risk of re-aggravation of this injury that put me down for 3-4 months?  Do I not run it, yet send in the checks anyway?  Do I not run it and send the checks back to their donors?

I went into the marathon expo on Saturday and again was inspired by all the fit, healthy people. There were many charities there with teams, and coaches, and team colors.  I knew I had to send these checks in.  I also knew I needed to run the distance.  I also didn't want to spend another 4 months not being able to run.  I decided to walk 13-14 miles, Saturday.  I got the course map and followed it until I got to a freeway entrance (94 out of downtown SD) and elected to do another lap around Balboa Park.  I wrapped it up in about 4 hours (about 17-minute mile pace) and went to visit my sister for dinner in La Jolla.  Sunday morning I caught a cab to Sea World, and at about the mile 14 mark I waited for the race to come by.  I watched the elites, the sub-3 national class athletes, the age groupers, and somewhere about an hour later jumped into the fray.  Again, I walked more than I ran, but I was coming up against my feelings of failure, the disappointment I wasn't an official participant (it was a chip race, and I'd never show up in the results).  But on the other side of those negative feelings, I was doing something maybe for the first time in my life, that wasn't going the way I envisioned it, and I was finishing it anyway.  My watch read 6-hours, 17-minutes when I hit the 26.2 mile mark, and based on when I started the day prior, my unofficial time would have read 22-hours, 17-minutes.  By all measures of marathon finishes, I was a DNS (on Sunday) or a DNF (on Saturday).  Two half marathons in back-to-back days is not a marathon.  But I sent in those checks and wrote a letter to everyone who donated, "I am happy to reimburse you if you object to the way I completed this marathon, and here's why you won't find me in any official results...".  It was a huge turning point in my life.

Officially finished my 1st marathon 16 months later.

Even today, I still come up against the feelings of "I don't want to train today, I just don't feel inspired or motivated to do it." and some days, those feelings win out.  But more often than not over the past 13 years, I cast my feelings and lack of motivation aside, and ask myself, "what am I committed to?" and often, the answer is pretty simple.  When you ask yourself what you're committed to, and weigh it against what you're feeling, whatever is bigger wins.  So my commitments have become huge, 'larger than me' type challenges, such that my fickle and ever-shifting feelings can be good, bad or ugly, but rarely are they bigger than my commitment to the goal.

You won't win this battle every day.  But the more you play this game, the stronger at "being your commitment" which is essentially "adhering to ones principles" instead of empowering your feelings which can change moment to moment, day to day and are as unpredictable as the weather.

What are you committed to?
*post a comment below and declare what you're committed to!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Heavy Lifting for the Runners' Mind - My Film List for the Mental Game

I'm fresh off of my second 50 mile DNF (both coming the first weekend in February on my sophomore run of a course in my Santa Monica Mountains backyard).  I know that my body didn't respond, part of which could have been just having an off day, and part of it definitely being undertrained.  I don't regret being undertrained, as my focus is on Summer 2014, and I now know there's no way I'm peaking too early.  But that's also my self-justification for not doing enough of the necessary grunt work, laying the foundation brick-by-brick.  I'm out the door for a run in a few.  One day at a time.  All that said, until my body failed me, my mind was solid in spite of a great number of problems out there.  That is one of my take-aways.  I have 4 months (or 17 weeks) to get in peak 100 mile shape.  I know my mind is ahead of that curve.

"Like success, failure is many things to many people.  With a positive mental attitude, failure is a learning experience, a rung on the ladder, a plateau at which to get your thoughts in order and prepare to try again."
-W. Clement Stone

Get to work on your mental game.

It seems like a general and broad-sweeping stroke.  But here's what I mean when I say that.  Workouts and physical fitness are only about half the story when it comes to setting new personal standards in speed or distance (or both).  You must develop the mental makeup so that you don't mentally breakdown.  There are a lot of ways to get there, and generally speaking, a coach will implement these things into your training runs (sometimes overtly and often times, like in my case, covertly).  You can always improve your mental game.  I love reading inspiring books and watching inspiring films (they absolutely do not need to be about running to be good for your mental game).

Here's a list of a few movies that really stoke my mental fire.  What I mean by that?  I cry tears of joy, tears of anguish and tears of being moved by the human spirit each and every time I watch them:

Pre's gutsy 5000 meter Olympic Final (actual event photo, not film)
MY TAKE: There are 2 movies about Prefontaine's life, this film is just that, a film.  The other (Prefontaine) is a mock-umentary, and is good, but not great (it's great material/story, but poorly executed from a filmmaking standpoint, love some of the performances though).

SYNOPSIS: A film about the late Oregon running legend Steve Prefontaine and his coach, Bill Bowerman. Bowerman helped create a generation of world-class runners at the University of Oregon and went on to coach at the Olympics. An enigmatic, commanding man, revered by his team and respected the world over for his training accomplishments, he became Pre's close friend and mentor. Although taken aback by Prefontaine's unwillingness to substitute strategy for a fervent desire to run at the front of the pack, Bowerman also respected the young track star and came to know him as few others did.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS: Pre is arguably the James Dean of American Distance Running, so talented, so much promise, gone before we really knew what he could do.  It will give you the fire to be the best runner you can be, and give your best effort every time you race.

QUOTE I LOVE"The real purpose of running isn't to win a race. It's to test to the limits of the human heart."

Ferg Hawke running through the valley of death
MY TAKE: A searing documentary about the BADWATER 135 Ultramarathon (aka the World's Toughest Footrace).  I've crewed/paced this race 3 times now, and I'll be stoked to be help another friend get this done this year, even though I can't attend the race.

SYNOPSIS: This 90-min documentary features Canadian Ferg Hawke as well as Scott Jurek, Dr. Ben Jones, Charlie Engle, Ray Zahab, Monica Scholz, Pam Reed, Dean Karnazes, Marshal Ulrich and Mike Sweeney as they experience the BADWATER Ultramarathon. Footage from both the 2005 and 2006 races are included as well as interviews, course profile, blister care and finish line drama. The race itself is broken into the six legs and even after 90 miles three athletes are separated by only about a mile and a half. The finish is amazing with records falling and 11 athletes are shown crossing the line.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS: Because if you're reading one of my blogs, let's be honest, you're already pretty silly, and there isn't much sillier than running 135-miles through Death Valley in the peak of summer heat.  In case of invisible self-limiting barriers, break glass (ceiling).  This movie will leave you without valid excuses.

QUOTE I LOVE"If you run long enough, something is bound to happen."

How many setbacks must one endure to realize an impossible dream?
MY TAKE: It is slow at points, but then again so is life.  If you patiently entrench yourself in this story, you'll feel Rudy's passion, his devastating lows and triumphant over-coming of long-shot odds.  I love this movie.

SYNOPSIS: Rudy has always been told that he was too small to play college football. But he is determined to overcome the odds and fulfill his dream of playing for Notre Dame.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS: You don't have to like college football, this is a movie about having a tenacious spirit and chasing impossible dreams.

QUOTE I LOVE"In this life, you don't have to prove nothin' to nobody but yourself."

What inspires you to run fast?  Old dares do it for me.
MY TAKE: Also takes some time to build into things, but each scene is vital in a really well woven piece.  It examines the why of two Olympic runners.  One runs to "feel God's pleasure" and another runs from an absolute terror of being second best.  Love vs Fear.  A perfect examination of life.

SYNOPSIS: The story of two British track athletes, one a determined Jew, and the other a devout Christian who compete in the 1924 Olympics.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS: It doesn't matter why you run.  It matters that you run (see: exercise).  This movie will have you examining why you run and when you run and may enable you to get the most out of your mental game by determining your mental outlook.

QUOTE I LOVE"I've known the fear of losing but now I am almost too frightened to win."

Buoyed by great performances and Academy Award nom for Giamatti
MY TAKE: One of my 2-3 favorite films of all time (the other 2 are Shawshank Redemption and Crash).  I love this movie for so many reasons.  It will make you feel.

SYNOPSIS: Based on the true story of fighter Jim Braddock, who in Depression-era New York enters the boxing ring out of desperation to feed his family. He becomes a common folk hero as he battles his way up the ranks, vaulting from broken-down ex-boxer to living legend with a string of amazing upsets to his credit. As word of the scrappy underdog spreads, entire families stay glued to their radios, cheering, praying and experiencing his victories as their own. Their devotion reaches fever pitch when Braddock faces heavyweight champ Max Baer. That night, Braddock's dignity, courage and determination gives hope to a nation and earns him the nickname of Cinderella Man.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS: You don't have to like boxing, nor be a fan of Russell Crowe or Renee Zellweger.  This movie is about choosing to get back up after getting knocked down (no matter how many times you hit the mat).  Boxing may be a perfect analogy for life in the courage to get back up off the mat when life is punching you in the face.  Give in to this movie.

QUOTE I LOVE"For two hundred and fifty dollars I would fight your wife... and your grandmother, at the same time." 

Photo by Luis Escobar, RD of Born to Run Ultras and Red Rock
MY TAKE: This is JB Benna's masterful weaving of a story about living outside the box, challenging one's perceived limits and going into that unknown void and seeing what part of you comes back from it.  This movie inspires me for many different reasons.

SYNOPSIS: This is the story of the 2010 competitive men's race in the granddaddy of trail ultra runs, the Western States 100.  In addition to following 4 of the top ultra runners in the world, it tells much of the story of how the Western States Endurance Run came into being.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS: Because everyone faces their mental breaking point in a race that means a lot to us.  Sometimes our expectations, our goals, or even the conditions in the race can break us.  Sometimes it's our competition.  But watch how these competitors respond to being broken, and what they do in the face of it.  Warning: it might make you want to run Western States, or 100 miles, or both.

QUOTE I LOVE"I can still take one more step. And so at that point I decided to take one more step until I could not longer take one more step." 

HONORABLE MENTION - Other Films I Love for the Mental Game
The Fighter, Finding Nemo, Rocky, 300, Rocky IV, and many more...

We could all use a little (more) work on our mental game.  These 6 movie-films will help you with that (and I threw in 5 more on the HM list a few sentences above this).  Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  Let me know what you think, especially if you see them now (with new perspective).

If you have other films you love watching, post a comment below and let us know what films help you with your mental game!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Unlocking the Magic & Mystery Behind Sean O'Brien - 50 Mile Course Notes

Ah, my boy Sean O'Brien.  Friend.  Fellow trail running junkie. Dog lover.  Uphill fiend.
SOB The Man. The Legend. The Uprising.
We are all so excited that Keira Henninger is a tenacious 100 mile mountain runner because if not, this SoCal gem of a race wouldn't exist.  We were all devastated by the Springs Fire last year that wiped out about 80% of the park that the amazing Ray Miller 50/50 happened in.  The trails in Pt Mugu (northern Santa Monica Mountains park area that Ray Miller happened in) are all still in decent shape, albeit everything around them is charred.

Enter Sean O'Brien.

Keira & Sean
Anyone who knows Sean, loves Sean.  I hope you all get a chance to shake his hand, high five him or give him a sweaty hug on race day.  He's a dog loving trail runner (Arlington, one of his pups, can go for a 15-25 mile run and probably logs an extra 5 miles of out-and-backs sniffing around), and may be the nicest dude you'll ever meet in the middle of nowhere on a long trail run in the San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Monica Mountains or any other mountain range within a 30-90 min drive of LA. Sean is one of those people that would stop in a race and give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.    You'll also find him on nearly every nasty staircase in the greater LA area, as he just loves to fight gravity.  For those of you who've heard of a nasty little race called the Los Pinos, Keira designed a route that she said would be impossible to run every step of.  So Sean did just that on a test run, and finished it smiling.  As nice as Sean is, he's notorious for inviting friends out for "I don't know, about 17-ish miles" and you'll come back to your cars 24 miles later out of water cursing his name again!  "Damn you, SOB, you did it to us again!"

Sean and Arlington on the trails together!
Welcome to the first year of what's going to end up being one of the most magnificent 50 mile races in the country.  Challenging and extended climbs (for the Santa Monicas).  Majestic ridgeline views of the Pacific.  Rolling canopied single track on the most legendary trail in this range, the Backbone.  Malibu Creek State Park to Zuma Canyon and back.  It's a semi straight forward "lollipop course" (an out and back with a loop in the middle), but really, the 50 mile race is better described as a "suckers course."

After test running this full route in mid-October, I've gone back and run every section of the course, out and backs, hitting each section semi fresh, with time to really think about what it did to me in October.  I'm excited for this race, and I'm a little bit in awe of it.  I've always been in awe of Sean, so I guess this course strikes up a similar love, respect and awe in me.

Sean O'Brien 50 mile - elevation profile

Here's how I break down the 50 mile course!

BLACK writing applies to ALL 3 race distances.
PURPLE writing applies to 50k & 50 miler.
RED writing applies to 50 miler only.

I only included major aid stations, not minor ones, nor water only top off spots.  What you'll find on the Sean O'Brien 50 website course breakdown will differ, slightly.

I round off to approximate half mile marks (as they apply to 50 mile race), and make no claims whatsoever as to what your GPS watch will say at designated points.  If you're running 50k or marathon, do a little math and you'll work out your aid station (and section) distances.

START NOTE: For those of you not familiar with early mornings at Malibu Creek State Park, it'll be cold (for California) and will be/feel 20-30 degrees lower between 4-6am than what our afternoon ridgeline temps will be.  Plan for 35-40 degrees at race check in, whereas the ridges later in the race could achieve 60-70 degrees (if not overcast).

Start (Malibu Creek State Park) to Mile 2
Double track - wide enough to pass
After a short stint on paved road, you transition to a rocky/dirt road, then to a double-track trail up and over a little hill you might not even notice (on the way out, on the way back, that nasty f**ker will feel twice as steep and three times as long).  Take note of the short little downhill around Mile 1 because you'll see it again around mile 48.5 as a hill I affectionately call "the Angry Chihuahua" otherwise known as the prison camp climb. Coming off that double-track, you'll transition to another dirt road, zig-zag across a flowing creek (everyone is going to have wet shoes, I promise) and you'll start the first climb of significance of the day.

Mile 2 to Mile 7 (Corral Canyon Aid Station #1)
Nick & I hiking/running up typical fire road climb here
Climb, climb and climb some more.  Something in the neighborhood of 1,500+ feet in around 3 miles, then some rollers into the first aid station, Corral Canyon.  Most of the climb is semi rocky fire road.  Wide, with some golfball to baseball sized sharp kickable stones.  There's a fun section of non fire road after most of the climbing that connects you to the aid station and runs through/over some sweet looking sandstone formations.  You're there after the second one of these sandstone formations.

Mile 7 Corral Aid to Mile 13.5 (Kanan "Coyote" Aid Station #2)
Coyotes navigating the single track rollers
This would be my favorite stretch of trail in the race.  Not the most amazing views of the race, but the most fun stretch of single track rollers past Castro Peak (a great visual reference point, the peak with communication towers, antennas, etc.).  You'll run about 4 miles from the aid station until you dump out in a dirt parking lot and cross over Latigo Canyon Rd (please be careful, this is the only road you cross in the race, and you cross it twice).  After Latigo crossing, you have another 2.5 miles of single track gradually rolling down and occasionally up to reach the Kanan Aid Station.  The last 200 meters into this check point is a rocky, rutted, semi technical drop into the parking lot.  Get too caught up in the commotion below and you might need medical attention for scrapes at the aid station.  This is the MARATHON TURNAROUND point.  This is a DROP BAG station.

AID STATION NOTE TO THE GUYS IN 50 MILER: if you aren't in competition for TOP 3 overall, please be aware of the top females and allow them to get helped at the aid station before you.  They might have Top 3 Western States aspirations on the line.  30 seconds to you won't likely mean very much, but 30 seconds to them could be the difference in their race.  Be a gentleman, you're not competing with them.
Sean O'Brien at Kanan "Coyote" Aid Station area

Mile 13.5 Kanan Aid Station to Mile 16 (50k turn around) - water only (take water only if necessary)
More joyful, mostly rolling, semi canopied single track!  You'll run 2.5 miles of winding, canyon and dry creek flanking single track.  You'll get to the connection of the Backbone Trail (the trail you've been running on for 14 miles) and the Zuma Ridge Motorway.

Mile 16 to Mile 19 (Zuma Edison Intersection Aid Station #3)
Do not enter.  Watch for vehicles to/from BR Ranch.
You'll turn left heading uphill for a quick 1.5 mile climb.  Every twist and turn of Zuma Ridge Mtwy will yield a unique view giving you a panoramic perspective in each direction (important note: it's possible there will be a vehicle or three that will cross your path on this stretch between the BBT single track and the top of this climb, please be aware and courteous, these vehicles have the right-of-way, as they are graciously allowing us to use this road).  After the 1.5 mile fire road climb, you'll pass Buzzard's Roost Ranch and begin the most epic descent of the 50 mile course.  With a very brief respite from the descent around 1.5 miles down, you'll reach the next aid station.  Everything you've run to this point, you'll run again in reverse, after you complete the lollipop/suckers part of this loop that double dips into Zuma Canyon.

Mile 19 Zuma Edison Intersection Aid #3 to Mile 23 (Bonsall Aid Station #4)
This pic just won't do it justice.
Down, down, down we go!  Be careful not to get carried away on this section.  It's a lot of fire road and great views of the Pacific (unless foggy/raining/overcast).  When you're about 3 miles down, you'll transition from the fire road across a parking lot left onto a very dusty horse trail single track.  You've got about a mile to the Bonsall Aid Station!  Head toward the ocean (west) and you'll end up at the Bonsall Aid Station. This is a DROP BAG station.

Mile 23 Bonsall Aid Station to Mile 31.5 (Zuma Edison Intersection Aid #5)
Grinder of a climb
It is important to acknowledge here that you are in Zuma Canyon, the lowest point on the course.  Race starts around 500-ish feet of elevation and you are now at around 25-ish feet of elevation.  From Mile 23 to Mile 43, two thirds of the next 20 miles will be climbing, and about one third will be flat or down.  Buckle up, buttercup, it's going to be a tough go (but you're a tough mutha-effer, so get to it).  This next 8.5 miles will likely be one of the most challenging sections of the entire course.  You have a half mile of flat in Zuma Canyon to get to the climb, then you're going to climb via a switch-backing series of single track trails, this is about a 4-ish mile ascent with a few breaks in it.  As soon as you achieve the ridge and connect to Zuma Edison Road, where the single track becomes fire road again, you're going to dive into the back of Zuma Canyon.  This is one of the two most steep descents of the race (loosing some 600-800 feet in one mile), watch those quads.  After a two mile crushing descent, you're now staring down the most significant climb of the race.  You'll be able to spot Buzzard's Roost Ranch while running down those two miles, and that marks the top of the climb.  You may like looking at it (knowing where the climb ends) and you might not want to look at it (it'll seem forever away).  You have a 2 mile switch back on fire road climb to the Zuma Edison Intersection Aid, your 2nd trip here, now the whole course is the way back from whence you came!

Mile 31.5 Zuma Edison Intersection Aid (Part II) to Mile 34.5 "50k Turnaround"
Center off in distance, Ray Miller 50 course, Tri Peaks and Sandstone Peak
You have the final 1.5 miles to get to Buzzard's Roost Ranch via the Zuma Ridge Mtwy, of which about 1 mile is actual climbing.  Then a 1.5 mile fire road descent to the 50k turnaround intersection with the Backbone Trail single track. Looking to the north while descending from BR Ranch, you'll be able to see the Tri Peaks from here, near Sandstone Peak which is where the Ray Miller 50 mile course came out to run past and turn around.  By the Backbone Trail, it's about 10-15 miles away to reach the Ray Miller Course from here.  Fill one water bottle with water here if you're dry, otherwise press on.

Mile 34.5 "50k Turnaround" to Mile 37 (Kanan "Coyote" Aid Station #6)
Press on to the Kanan aid station only 2.5 miles down the rolling windy single track.  From Mile 34.5 to Mile 43, you're going to be rolling, trending slightly upward more often than not.  It's really runnable stuff if you managed your calorie intake, fluids and electrolytes, not to mention were conservative enough with your effort level.  I was surprised how difficult I found this section to run, which was mostly mental bonking when I ran it in October.  Arrive at Kanan Aid Station and tank up!  This is a DROP BAG station.  It is important to have a FLASHLIGHT or HEADLAMP in this bag if you will finish anytime after 4pm.  Better to have one and not need it than need a light an not have it.

REMINDER NOTE TO THE 50 MILER GUYS: by this point, you're probably pretty clear who the Top 5 women are if you're around them.  Something I love to do here is help them!  Encourage them.  Let them in front of you at the aid station.  If they achieve their goal of a States slot, and you really supported them, you've made a new friend on the trails.  Never know when you'll need some of that trail karma.

Mile 37 Kanan Aid Station to Mile 43.5 (Corral Aid Station #7)
Heading back towards Corral through this
You are again trending upward on rolling single track trail.  2.5 miles of this upward trend, you'll cross over Latigo Canyon Rd (BE MINDFUL OF CARS, BIKES, TRUCKS, etc. especially now that you're delirious, and especially if it's dark out).  You are 4 miles from the last major checkpoint.  One little tough climb up to flank Castro Peak, then you'll roll 3 ish miles to the Corral Aid Station again!

Mile 43.5 Corral Aid Station to the FINISH LINE!
Descending rock formations with 6-ish miles to go, Pacific Ocean views
You have about 1.5 to 2 miles of rollers, first on single track, then on fire roads before the plunge.  The plunge is good news OR bad news depending on how your legs are feeling.  You're going to have a pretty brutally steep 2.5 mile descent (one mile will lose 700 feet) on rocky fire road.  When you go from fire road onto single track, you've got about a mile to go (until the creek crossing).  You're legs will likely be pretty unsure at this point so I recommend going straight through the creek.  Careful not to turn an ankle!  Once you're through the creek crossing, you've got a little more than 2 miles to go.  About 2/3'rds of a mile to that "Angry Chihuahua" I warned you about earlier.  The prison camp climb (Angry Chihuahua) is about a half mile, but it might seem like 1.5 miles at this point.  The moment you achieve the saddle atop this climb, almost precisely one mile to go!  Run a half mile down the double track and you'll hit the gravel parking lot and fire road, a quarter mile to the paved road and a quarter mile to the FINISH LINE!  Wooooohoooo!  Hit the pavement and finish it strong!

You made it!!!  High five, sweaty hug and celebrate life with some other rad peeps!

*Be courteous to your other racers
*If you're on single track and someone comes up behind you, ask them if they'd like to pass, let them go and worry about catching up later, or tuck in and hang with them for a while
*If you are having a low moment and choose to listen to music, one earbud must be out and the music must be low enough to communicate with other runners, hear rattlesnakes, etc.
*Have fun!

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners.  Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit."
-George Sheehan

I wish you all your best race out there.  Make sure you ALL meet Sean O'Brien.  In fact, stop him during the race for a sweaty hug and chat him up.  I'd really like to finish ahead of him and the more of you do that, the better my chances are...  *playful wink*
Sean whooping my butt again, Avalon 50, 2011